WELCOME TO the Tuesday blog. Tuesdays mean Steve Collett, focussing mainly on match fishing but also delving into his styles of pleasure fishing and specialist angling.
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WARNING: HARD-HITTING PERSONAL OPINIONS THIS WEEK!
I NEVER want to use this blog as a pedestal to vent my anger or spill out to you whatever nonsense comes into my head at the time of writing.
This is a pretty privileged position, a weekly writer for the country’s best fishing weekly, something to be proud of. I always wanted to relay to you my experiences of catching fish, watching other anglers, the news, the reviews, and what I have learned – all useful stuff that I can pass on to you. As the old saying goes, you’re never too old to learn.
So that is what I liked to write about, that is until today! Fasten your seatbelts – and read this disclaimer first!
So before I explode into controversy, let me say that this piece of cyberspace that Angler’s Mail gives me, is pretty much of my own opinion. It does not constitute a personal attack, nor does it reflect the views of the brand Angler’s Mail. And I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, if that’s what they want to do….
“How much will you pay me…?’ – the phone call that triggered this blog
So, after a pretty arduous build up, what am I talking about? “Sponsored anglers”!
Now, how this came about was during the week I had a phone call from a lovely chap. Fair play to him, he had won three matches on the trot at his local water.
He got in touch with me wanting to get an email address or phone number of the editor of Angler’s Mail, or if I could send down “some” reporters to do a feature.
Now I have my ear to the ground when it comes to match fishing, and I have to say that I had never heard of the young man on the other end of the phone. That’s not to say he had something to “offer” and in turn I could share the secrets of his success to you.
So I asked what the feature would entail, and what would be different to all of the other features, and what his “secret” to winning all of these matches?
His reply: “how much will you pay me?”
Well if anyone involved in the trade reads this, they will know that it’s not all about ten-figure contract deals and Winnebagos, blue skittles and gear carried down to your peg. It’s about enlarging your profile, and passing on your tips to the good folk that read the Angler’s Mail every week.
But NO… this guy wanted to talk big money: “I will take a grand, no less, and a sponsorship deal.” At this point I looked around my office in every corner, keeping an eye out for hidden cameras or listening devices, as this is going to end up on a comedy programme. Or was it?
So, after explaining to this guy that it doesn’t work like that. He then told me he was already sponsored by a bait company, so he must be good… Well he must be then.
The phone call went on and I asked where he had been having all of this success? This was the metaphorical straw, the venue I know VERY well, and know how many fish there. So I contacted the owner to gain some more info on the angling world’s new superstar to be told that HE organises the knock-ups and doesn’t fish the Open. And there are never any more than eight anglers fish them (the pool houses 15 pegs).
The results have been sent to the local paper and fishing weeklies, and to the uninitiated he looks like he is having a purple patch, but he isn’t. Reading the mags he sees all things glittery, he wants to be head to toe in matching Goretex, to have matching luggage, to have his name sewn on. All very well, until, he told me that he hates that kind of fishing, and only does it to get sponsored, and was even considering getting a sports agent, and giving up his job!
Deluded, but he is only going on what he sees in the press, and the rubbish spouted in tackle shops.
So “sponsored” anglers – what’s that all about?
I can tell you all at home that the amount of what I would call “sponsored” anglers in the UK at the moment is less than 15.
Does that amaze you? Well it’s true, and only three I know of earn more than a normal salary.
So how come there are so many “sponsored” anglers? There aren’t, it’s a total rip-off, all they are is discount club members, not sponsored.
Do you honestly think that Coca Cola would have had Wayne Rooney on the books if they gave him 24 free cans a year, and if he wants more he has to pay for them? Yeah, right! Rooney has achieved great success as a sportsman and in turn they rewarded him financially to endorse their products. Like motor-racing drivers like Lewis Hamilton (pictured right).
So why do we have so many “sponsored” anglers in the UK who think they can dictate what they want to magazine editors, and force “wool pulling” on the unsuspecting public?
What being a “sponsored angler” means – and how much it’s worth
It’s worth nothing more than an ego boost, yet it’s now the holy grail of every club angler up and down the country.
A sponsorship is a very short-lived title; you become a B-listed celeb, in your very own world. Find yourself walking to Tescos in name-badged apparel, and end up telling anyone within earshot, how good you are, and how good your sponsor’s product is, ultimately turning you into an arrogant egotistical angler.
How do I know? I have been there, and I really loved every minute of it…
Charlie Big Potatoes, I had my name on everything I wore, striking fear into my opponents with their Primark waterproofs on. I am colour coded, I was “sponsored” and had to do everything in my power to show my sponsor how good I was.
The fact is, it cost me more than you will ever know. It cost me my enjoyment of the sport, I was consumed by my own ego. Be careful what you wish for, as pretty soon I was giving up Saturdays and Sundays to sit at a trade show, listening to other “sponsored” anglers engage me in a willy-measuring contest. And all of the time I should have been out fishing, enjoying fishing, and just, well fishing.
“But I STILL want to be sponsored. I’m a big shot on the ten-pegger circuit.”
Let’s get serious here, what is sponsorship these days? Well briefly, with the lack of big attendance matches, and the financial remuneration the “sponsored” angler is nothing more than a promo girl (no offence promo girls).
All you are doing is showing of your shiny new branded gear to whoever is daft enough to look, to try and belittle your club mates with your “all the gear” attitude. Then you peddle the heavily branded photographs you take through social media and your own blog, in turn raising the profile of the brand you have prostituted yourself for.
And in your own mind, and the mind of the particular marketing manager you are working for, this will send their sales through the roof, leading to a massive cash bonus next financial year.
NO it doesn’t happen like that, all it does is add pressure on you, to keep coming up with the “goods” ultimately leading to you fishing for ego points not fish.
Angling gods vs. discount shoppers
Now you have your sponsorship for winning a few, or catching the big un, what’s going to happen?
You might find yourself getting a little bit of notoriety within your own circle of friends, but you’re not at the stage yet, to do book signings or sell-out arenas!
What will you get out of it – well the free stuff is nice, the discounted gear helps a lot, and the bait deals are amazing.
But let’s get this straight, you are not a sponsored angler. You’re a member of a discount club, and the trade should hold their heads in shame, for doing it, as it not only takes away sales. If that person is not “worshipped” outside of Dudley, then it can affect sales… it’s a very small pond out there.
So does all this make me a hypocrite?
Yes I am a hypocrite, in that I have learned the hard way. I have been there, and I am not a “sponsored” angler.
I get free stuff, yes, but to sponsor me you would have to pay my mortgage, fuel my car, and give me a relative custom of living. Now try as I might, I have still not convinced my bank manger to take 10mm tutti frutti boilies, or black Hydro as payment for my bills, so I don’t see myself as a sponsored angler.
I consult for companies, and maybe they gain a bit of publicity in my features, but I will never use anything that’s not up to my standards and that my word, I just won’t do it. I’d feel as if I am trying to hard sell the public a dodgy vacuum cleaner.
If you’re given the “sponsored” angler tag, you will soon find yourself believing your own tosh!
So there it is, my anger vented at what I see needs a major upheaval. Every single so called sponsored angler should resign, and let the manufacturers reward good anglers on merit: what they have won, what they have caught, not ten-peg knock-ups.
Now on to nice things…
This week was the only time I have been emotional in fishing, and that was because my old mucker Les Thompson became the latest winner of the Maver Match This final and took home £50,000 to boot. All of this two weeks before he gets married.
I have never wanted anyone to win a match so much as him. During the week I phoned him to see how his prep was going, and how he felt, and he told me: “I have put some serious time into Larford Steve, and given a good draw I’ll win it.”
Well he was and he did. What a superb performance, he kept to his guns, and despite big names catching him up at the end, he remained calm. What a win, and what a bloke. Take a bow, Les.
There’s a terrific Action Replay feature with Les, demonstrating the double layer Method feeder, in this week’s Angler’s Mail magazine, out now. Be sure to read it!
Now, this week’s Tuesday blog concludes with the promo video for that excellent Les Thompson feature. Click below to play and hear Les talking about what he explains in detail, with great photos, in the magazine.